Lauri Kinkar: Back in 2001, we founded Mobi with a group of other people who were university students at that time. It was a telecommunication company. Over time, we started to go into new areas, services, and new platforms.
The initial company became a group of companies consisting of 8 to 9 different technology companies. One of the first companies that grew out of this initial thing that we founded was a software company that started doing mobile apps back when the first iPhone was launched and the first Android phones were launched as well. Back at that time, it was a very new idea. This was around 2006 to 2007.
The first thing that has always been a part of how we go about things is that we are very sales-focused. As soon as we have something resembling a product, we go out there and put it in front of customers and have this process guide us in terms of how to develop it as a service and what to build next. This has been the approach in all of those 8 to 9 companies that we have founded.
Sramana Mitra: It sounds like the companies that you are selling to are enterprise customers.
Lauri Kinkar: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What is the value proposition in each case that you started with?
Lauri Kinkar: I’ll give you a few ideas about what those companies do. There is one that is still in the business of building and designing good mobile apps for enterprises.
Then there’s another one which is called Messente where I’m active on a day-to-day basis. It’s a platform for sending business-critical messages. To give you an example, let’s say you book a table at a restaurant. Then the restaurant is connected to our platform.
Through our platform, it sends you an SMS or a WhatsApp message to confirm that your reservation is in place. We provide the tools for sending business-critical notifications.
Another company in our group has to do with the world of Internet of Things. You have a lot of hardware from lightbulbs to smart refrigerators that all use mobile connectivity. They have a SIM card.
One of the companies deals with how to connect all those devices through the internet with the optimal cost. If the device manufacturer goes directly to the operator, the costs are pretty high. These are three examples.
Sramana Mitra: What’s common across them? What’s the leverage of doing this group of companies?
Lauri Kinkar: When we started out with doing the first services in telecommunications, we started working internationally with the carriers. You see where the gaps are parallel to what you are already building. With every opportunity that we saw, a new company was born over time.
Sramana Mitra: That’s interesting. In terms of identifying gaps, are you selling to the same customers?
Lauri Kinkar: Sometimes we are. One of the companies in the group has an international solution for mobile payments. How do you pay for virtual goods especially in countries where there are no credit cards or are not as widespread? A company that needs a payment solution needs a connectivity solution, and also needs to send out time-critical notifications.
Very often, it is not. We tend to serve a different audience. What I meant by identifying the gaps is, you spot where technology is evolving and you see demand out there. We used to regularly sit down with other co-founders and try to figure out the next opportunities.
The common denominator here are the carriers or the network operators. From 2006 when the first smartphone emerged till today, there’s been a lot of transformation.